9 Things To Consider Before Diving into the Spa Business

1. How essential is spa experience prior to owning your own spa?
For me, on the one hand it was not necessary, because all of the skills that I had developed in the restaurant industry easily translated into the spa industry. I already had the Human Resource skills and knew how to interview and hire. I already had the financial skills to build sales and control costs, the skills to handle inventory and negotiate with vendors translated as did my ability to handle a build out, order equipment and supplies and test equipment. Customer relation skills, marketing skills and scheduling skills were also comparable. Basically, the business skills were the same. However, I excelled in the restaurant industry because I had started at the bottom and worked my way up. So when I decided to change industries, and move into the spa industry, I decided that I must once again start at the bottom and work my way up. I knew that my skills would move me up the ranks quickly. I went back to school and received my Associates degree as a Holistic Practitioner. I also became a licensed massage therapist. While going to school, I opened a new spa as a receptionist and did much research about the industry, attending and joining the ISPA International Spa Professional Association to learn the nuances of the industry. I feel that this gave me a fabulous edge. As one of my first assignments was to take over a failing spa which was losing money. Each year I was able to build sales and have a profitable business putting 27% on the bottom line. The skills that I had and the new skills that I learned, gave me the ability to develop unique treatments, gain free marketing television exposure and be successful.

2. What is the high points/low points of spa ownership?
The high points for me is making a difference in other people's lives and becoming an inspiration in their lives. The thank you letters and the love I have been given by my guests is a Spavelous high point. I haven't had any lows in my eyes. Yes, there are challenging times when it is slow and the staff who were hourly with commission would be jealous of the other therapists and gossip and rumors would start up. Yes, I have seen owners who have struggled to make ends meet because they had construction delays and went in under capitalized. Overall for me, there are no low points just learning points.

3. What should I look for when purchasing a spa?
If you are purchasing a spa, you have to look at everything. The condition of the building, the equipment, the POS system, who are the employees are they staying? do you have client information (e-mails, phone number, last names). Why is it for sale? Were they profitable? If not why not? Is the price justifiable? How much will it cost you to renovate or remodel? What is the current reputation of the spa? Do you change the name? What are the regulations in your area? Is the spa up to code in all areas? What are the break even points? Can you afford it? What do the current financials look like? These are just a few of the questions.

4. What do you think makes a successful spa? What is necessary? The same things that make for a successful business makes for a successful spa. You need to have great financial skills and truly understand how to build sales and control costs. The ability to have great people skills with guests and employees. A strategy to set yourself apart and stay ahead with your research. The ability to hire and stimulate your employees so that they achieve operational excellence. A true Love and passion for the industry is contagious. It really all depends on how you define success. For me, I am successful because I love to share and help to bring out the best in everyone that I touch. The rest of my success was just an extension of that.

5. How hard is it to find good employees? What is turnover like in
this industry?

The schools in AZ are overfilled with enthusiastic individuals for aesthetics, nails and massage. If you treat your employees right, you will have very little turnover. In other parts of the country that may not be true. Enrollment in massage schools is down. If you interview properly, have them do a practical, spend the time to train them and live with a catch them doing things right attitude, then turnover will be low and guest satisfaction will be up.

6. What do you think are the strengths that you will need as a
business owner?

The greatest strength you bring is a passion for the industry. The knowledge that people come to a spa happy to be there. It is a positive environment. You also need to have strong business skills.

7. What are things you would want me to be aware of when purchasing an existing spa?
So many things, reputations sometime are hard to over come. If the spa was failing, it may not be the right location. Do your feasibility studies, monitor the competition, do a financial analysis to insure that it can be profitable. Review the products and services to see how they need to be revamped. Realize that some clients are loyal to their therapists so if the therapists leave so may the clients. Make sure that you have the resources to be able to build, rebuild or maintain the business.

9. What are all the hidden costs that I should consider?
Equipment repair or replacement. Employee training, marketing, new vendor minimum orders if it is a new product line is being brought in and minimum monthly order requirements, printing costs for new menus, software if existing is not adequate for your needs, facility up dates in equipment for new services, Signage if you change the name. License fees, Business license fees, establishing vendor accounts, to name a few.

Marie Bernat, COO Spavelous www.spavelous.com